Multimillionaire pitcher Masahiro Tanaka provided the latest, and best, in a trilogy of efficient early season starts -- an eight-inning, two-hit, 10-strikeout performance Wednesday in a 3-0 Yankee victory over the Chicago Cubs.
In truth, it was more of a two-nubber than a two-hitter. Both Chicago singles were the result of bunts -- one of roughly 40 feet that required a video review to reverse an "out" call, the other an 80-footer that beat one of those dastardly infield shifts, leaving no one to charge from the third-base position.
Junior Lake was awarded the first hit, with one out in the second inning, after he apparently had been thrown out when Tanaka pounced on his bunt down the third-base line. Leading off the seventh, with Yankee third baseman Scott Sizemore overlapping to the other side of the second-base bag and shortstop Dean Anna far from the third-base bag, Anthony Rizzo easily beat out a bunt punched toward third.
The Yankees, meanwhile, got all the offense they needed on Carlos Beltran's first-inning home run into the rightfield seats. That was career homer No. 362, moving him past Joe DiMaggio on baseball's career list.
Anna's fourth-inning sacrifice fly and Jacoby Ellsbury's fifth-inning groundout drove in the other Yankee runs.
Tanaka (2-0) again gave ample evidence of justifying his seven-year, $155-million contract. Besides the two hits, Chicago's only baserunner was the result of Justin Ruggiano's first-inning walk.
Tanaka's 10 strikeouts gave him 28 in his first three games since singing with the Yankees, a deal that Baltimore manager Buck Showalter last week called the "best off-season signing by anyone." Tanaka became only the second pitcher in the last 100 years to strike out eight or more batters in each of his first Major League starts.